Metro Health issues new guidance on in-person teaching, says Bexar County isn’t ready yet

The amended directive also says local districts should post COVID-19 case information on their websites.

SAN ANTONIO — With the traditional start of school looming for many San Antonio-area districts, local health officials issued new guidance Friday that recommends a phased approach for in-person teaching based on how severe the coronavirus situation is in a given week. 

The amended directive is based on current health indicators compiled by Metro Health, which this week puts Bexar County in the severe “red zone.” As a result, the guidance recommends no in-person teaching until the situation improves into either the yellow zone, which recommends in-person instruction for special-needs students and those with less access to resources, or the green zone, at which point in-person teaching is safe enough to take place in accordance with Centers for Disease Control recommendations. 

The main reason San Antonio current occupies critical territory? 12% of COVID-19 cases in the county are patients under 18 years old. In mid-May, that number was just 3.8%. 

In a statement, Junda Woo, medical director for Metro Health, called the new directive “an attempt to balance what we know about the importance of schools and what we know about COVID transmission.” She added that Bexar County has the opportunity to learn from schools in other communities and states that have already begun the semester, some with in-person teaching. 

“Schools systems should tie their pandemic operational level to public health department metrics for community infection,” the city’s release states. 

“We are working with school districts to make sure they’re operating in a safe way,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg added at a Friday evening coronavirus briefing. 

The guidance also recommends that, no matter what risk level a community is in in regards to the coronavirus, anyone who shows signs of sickness should stay home and they “should face no negative consequences” for doing so. 

Additionally, the directive (which applies to all private and public schools, pre-K through 12th grade) mandates that districts report up-to-date numbers on COVID-19 cases to Metro Health on a weekly basis, as well as make the information public online. The directive also states each district is responsible for the creation of a seven-member task force to “provide guidance to superintendents, principals and school boards on operating procedures.”

That panel, the directive states, should include a minimum of one student, one teacher, one parent, one staff member who is not a teacher, one school nurse one healthcare provider and one HR rep. 

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